Thursday, January 14, 2010

Week 11 of 20 weeks away from Cambodia…

It's been seven weeks now since the camp shutdown operations and since then it’s just me and the 3 local security guys here. It’s a great part of the world to spend some time but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I'm starting to get cabin fever. With the rainy season settled in, the potential for to get out for hiking or biking trips in the area is severely limited. The grass is now over my head on most of the hiking trails and soaking wet from the daily rain so going anywhere (not that there is anywhere specific to go to now that the river is up) is a wet and muddy affair to be savored less often than I otherwise might.

Christmas and New Years Eve were atypically quiet here. My favourite place to be at that time of year is the Woodford Folk Festival - a brilliant mélange of music by 2,500 artists performing 16 hours a day for 7 days in 18 venues among 300 hectares of pictureeque former dairy land. Being in Australia, it was a little out of my way this year though so I elected to face reality and postpone my visit to 2010. Instead, on Christmas Day here I grabbed a crate of beer and went down to the security guys camp kitchen to celebrate. Turns out none of them drink. What sort of security guys are these? Should I be worried about my safety here? Hopefully they are still good at their job and perhaps it is all just a cultural misunderstanding… Perhaps they in turn are wondering about their safety with a boss who doesn’t drink sodas? Either way, they are a great bunch of guys. Just the sort of easy going people you would want in a remote camp with you for three months and very professional to boot. Luckily for them we had some sodas on had as well, so I had a beer while they had a couple of softies and in a mix of atrociously poor Swahili from me and only slightly better English from them we swapped stories about our home towns and past experiences.

I stayed up long enough to see in the New Years (in Sydney and Perth that is). I’d been hoping for a fireworks display but probably just as well they were canceled this year as the local village is three hours walk away. Must have been budget cuts or some new council ordinance about fireworks in vicinity of grass huts I guess, otherwise for sure they would have had some. Surely? Instead, and in the finest traditions of Hunter S. Thompson, I crafted plans to make up for that by getting drunk on the rest of the beer and firing the shotguns into the air while following up with Molotov cocktail chasers. A great night it would have been I’m sure, but in a (momentary and uncharacteristic) burst of common sense I opened a bottle of red wine and headed for bed at 1030 instead.

Friends keep me posted on life in the outside world and it helps to have the contact but they also love to tell me about the great café or beach or outing that they have just come back from. Cursed swine lol. Still, can’t blame them, I’d be doing the same and having some fun at their expense if I was in there shoes. Some good news that Pete and Tim have shared via Skype though is that Shela, the girl that we organized to get to Dar, is getting good care in hospital there. The Doctors seem to think her skin condition is a reaction to the sunlight. I’m not convinced given that the tiny leopard spots are all over her including places normally covered by clothing but hey, they are the fundi’s so I leave that up to them. In any case, they are still running some tests and are going to do a minor op to remove the growths from her face soon. Apart from becoming a pincushion for blood tests, she now sports a pair of glasses and has gained a little weight from the better diet in Dar Es Salaam plus seemingly gained a lot of confidence along the say. Apparently she’s now running around talking, laughing and very outgoing, much different from the shy, near blind, scarred and spotty girl I last saw in November on her way to Dar. It will be good when they finally figure out what to do about her skin condition but it sounds like the trip to Dar was well worthwhile already. On another good note, as well as the money we chipped in individually, the company has offered to cover the balance of her expenses which will be close to $1,000. It’s always nice to be involved with individuals and companies that have a social conscience. Kind of restores your faith in human beings really.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… It’s definitely an interesting and character building experience to spend two months here in a place with only three other guys, none of whom speak more than a few words of English. I guess I’ll come out of here with more character built in which sounds like a good thing (although I’m not sure if it will make me more eclectic or less suited to normal society – perhaps both). Either way, I’ll be very glad in three weeks time to get to the cafes of a sleepy, chilled-out town called Moshi in the shadow of Kilimanjaro for a big bowl of social interaction and a change of fresh scenery.

After a couple of days eating an unaccustomed diet of fresh and varied food as well as enjoying conversations that don’t have a 2 second time delay or need to be typed, I’ll be off exploring. First stop will be to the Serengeti, then Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara where I plan to disturb as much of the wildlife as possible with the clicking sounds of my camera. A friend told me when I was leaving for Africa that “you haven’t lived until you’ve seen sunrise over the Serengeti” so I rather intend to remedy that lack of living thus far, with a dawn balloon ride over the Serengeti. After that I’m off to Scotland for a couple of weeks then back to Cams to catch up with friends who are coming to visit. While there I’ll just have to 'take one for the team' and put some time aside to take my sadly neglected XR400 for a few runs in the back blocks of Cambodia. Like the valiant steed that it is, it has been sitting there patiently waiting for me to come home. I won’t be long in Cams however as I’m off to Lisbon in April to present at a conference after which I will no doubt fit in some more hiking in the European spring.

At least I’m being productive while I’m out here. It looks like my next book will be finished this month (a risk management how-to guide) and I’ll be sending it for editing in February then putting it up on in March. Hopefully 2 other books should also be finished by then. Much more planned for the year but that can wait for another blog.

2010 is looking like a very good year already...

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